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Karl Marx has been the subject of countless biographies and his writings have been adapted to the purposes of those on both the Left and Right. In this new biography, however, Sperber (history, Univ. of Missouri; The European Revolutions: 1848-1851) asks us to step back from our contemporary views of Marx and instead see him through the prism of his own life and time. Sperber argues that to understand Marx's ideas, it is not enough to know their intellectual content and context; it is also necessary to understand them within the framework of his historical period. Considering Marx's relationship to the major events of his era, including the French Revolution, European politics in the 1840s, and English industrialization, says Sperber, gives readers a nuanced and deeper understanding of his theories. -VERDICT Written for a popular but thoughtful audience, this biography is lively and readable yet retains the authority of an author who thoroughly understands his sources and subject. Highly recommended.-Jessica Moran, Metropolitan Transportation Commission-Assoc. of Bay Area Govts. Lib., Oakland, CA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Working with sources not available to previous authors, Sperber (Univ. of Missouri) offers readers a fresh perspective on Karl Marx and 19th-century European history in this remarkable work. It is hard to say which portions of this biography are the best. The early pages tracing Marx's development as a young Hegelian are at once lucid and rigorous, placing Marx in the larger context of European intellectual history. Later, Sperber is brilliant when he offers his analysis of Marx's economic thought in his years of exile in London (the author shows that by the time Marx wrote, the labor theory of value had seen its best days). Elsewhere, Sperber traces the life of Marx as an activist and observer of European politics, showing that Marx was repeatedly disappointed by events, beginning with the failure of revolution in France and Germany in 1848 to end authoritarian government and continuing with the failure of economic crisis in 1857 to end capitalism. In the end, Marx even came to wonder if Irish or Russian revolutionaries might wake central Europe from its slumbers. This brief review hardly does justice to a book that combines exceptional scholarship with exemplary exposition, and is among the best historical studies of this generation. Summing Up: Essential. Most levels/libraries. S. Bailey emeritus, Knox College
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Recent Marx biographies, such as Francis Wheen's Karl Marx (2000) and Mary Gabriel's Love and Capital (2011), leave scholarly room for Sperber's cradle-to-grave portrait. A specialist in nineteenth-century European history, Sperber maintains that Marx, the power of his ideas having run their course, must be anchored historically to his youthful inspiration by Hegelian philosophy and the French Revolution. According to Sperber, Marx's intellectualism, despite his prophetic visions of a Communist society, was retrospective. Sperber's interpretations of Marx's ideas might rankle a modern Marxist, who believes in their contemporary relevance, which implies a subsidiary purpose of Sperber's work, to depict Marx the man before there was Marx the ism. That aim results in Sperber's most interesting and accessible sections, which underscore Marx's birth into bourgeois society, the conventions of which he never relinquished; the influence of his parents; and the poverty and exile his wife and children endured because of his revolutionary activities. Including the cast of Marx's enemies and acolytes, Sperber superbly recounts the life Marx led.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist